Surface ages and rates of erosion at the Calico Archaeological Site in the Mojave Desert, Southern California

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Geomorphology 125,1 (2011) 40-50;


Erosion rates and surface exposure ages were determined at the Calico Archaeological Site in the Calico Hills of the Mojave Desert, California, using Be-10 terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides (TCN) methods. The Calico Hills are composed of Miocene lacustrine deposits of the Barstow Formation and fanglomerates/debris flows of the Pleistocene Yermo Deposits. These deposits are highly denuded and dissected by arroyos that have surfaces armored with chert. Surface erosion rates based on cosmogenic Be-10 concentrations in stream sediments range from 19 to 39 m/Ma, with an average of 30.5 +/- 6.2 m/Ma. Surface boulders have Be-10 TCN ages that range from 27 ka to 198 ka, reflecting significant erosion of the Calico Hills. The oldest boulder age (197 20 ka) places a minimum limit on the age of Yermo deposits. Depth profile ages at four locations within the study area have minimum ages that range from 31 to 84 ka and erosion rate-corrected surface exposure ages ranging from 43 to 139 ka. These surface exposure ages support the view that the surfaces in Yermo deposits formed during the Late Pleistocene to latest Middle Pleistocene. This chronology has important implications for interpreting the context of possible artifacts/geofacts at the site that might provide evidence for early human occupation of North America, and for reconstructing paleoenvironment change and landscape evolution in the region. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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